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Fowler students perform 'Dirty deeds' at annual fundraiser

Students raise more than $13,000 for Fowler Middle School.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Students slide through mud during the Falcon Dash, held Friday at Fowler Middle School. The obstacle course is a yearly fundraiser for the schools Parent Student Organization and helps pay for items the school wouldnt be able to afford otherwise.Stomping across a grassy field behind Fowler Middle School, 12-year-old Matthew Burnette dove headfirst into the brown, soupy mud.

Sliding through the chocolate brown liquid on his stomach to reach the other side, he quickly got up — a dripping mess — and raced on.

Behind him, a hundred of his fellow classmates at Fowler Middle School waited their turn, each of them laughing and smiling.

After all, it’s not every day you get to coat yourself in mud in the middle of a school day.

More than 700 students turned out for the third annual Falcon Dash, a special fundraiser at the school that pits students against an intimidating obstacle course of mud pits, hurdles and a ticking clock.

For the school’s Parent Student Organization, it’s a chance to make serious money to help pay for events next year.

For most of the students, it was a chance to get absolutely filthy.

The fundraiser is a major one for the school, said Denise Stephens, a volunteer coordinator with the PSO who helped organize the Falcon Dash.

The nonprofit organization helps pay for items the school wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford on its own, such as field trips, school dances, computer equipment, teaching supplies and gym gear, Stephens said.

‘So much fun’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A student jumps off hay bales during the Fowler Middle School Falcon Dash. The fundraiser is one of a handful of events the schools PSO provides every year. Students received pledges from friends and family to participate in the event. The run has quickly become a tradition at the school.

Students crawled through mud, carried heavy buckets, climbed tall hay bales, leaped over hurdles, slinked through tunnels and bounded along in gunny sacks as part of the dash.

Students came out in droves for the event, bringing in donations from the community in order to participate.

It was the most popular dash yet, said Cindy Pellicci, a math teacher who came up with the idea for the run a few years ago. More than 80 percent of the Fowler student body participated, bringing in donations of as little as $1 to run the course.

Other students raised $50 or more.

Burnette, a sixth-grader at the school, raised $100.

“It’s so much fun,” he said, caked in mud after finishing the course. “The best part is the mud pit. I said last night that I might not go into it, but it’s the best.”

Burnette said the event is important for students to take on for several reasons.

“It’s fun to do, and it’s great for all the kids because it’s fun to get dirty, which they can’t do at school,” he said. “And it raises money for the school and funds our field trips and everything.”

Providing extras

Nearly half of the PSO’s $22,000 budget comes from the one-day dash, Stephens said.

The PSO holds other fundraisers throughout the year, including a magazine sale each fall, but the Falcon Dash is far and away the most successful.

Stephens said that is because it’s different and it’s fun.

“It’s something out of the ordinary, all the kids get together and do this and there is a flurry of activity around it. They understand this is an important fundraiser that comes back to help them,” she said.

The past two years, the dash raised between $10,000 and $11,000.

This year, students brought in more than $13,254 during the one-day event.

“It was phenomenal. We blew last year out of the water,” Stephens said. “We’re very, very, very happy. Very happy.”

That money will be put directly back into the school, Stephens said.

“We can provide the extras, and in some cases, we provide the really necessary items that our kids would miss out on,” Stephens said. “When it comes to field trips, the school would have a hard time funding those if it weren’t for the PSO.”

When the school’s refrigerator in the teacher’s lounge died last year, the school didn’t have the money to purchase a new one, Stephens said.

“We were able to buy a new fridge for the staff lounge,” she said.

In a time of ever-shrinking school budgets, Stephens said her organization is more relevant now than it ever has been.

“With funding being the way it is, schools are being granted less and less from the district to use for things that they need,” Stephens said. “There’s so little left in terms of discretionary spending, the principal would not have been able to say here’s the $400 to go buy a new fridge. He doesn’t have that flexibility.”

Community event

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Students wash off the mud and grass stains after completing the Falcon Dash at Fowler Middle School.Pellicci said she dreamed up the idea after friends of hers ran the Warrior Dash in North Plains a few years ago.

That grueling 5K race sends racers through an intense obstacle course not dissimilar to the Falcon Dash course, with racers scaling walls, leaping over flames, crawling under barbed wire through mud and other obstacles.

“I wanted the kids to do a mini-version of that,” Pellicci said.

When the PSO began to consider a fundraiser in the spring, Pellicci said she knew it would be the perfect fit.

“School is not all about sitting in a classroom and listening to somebody talk to them for 50 minutes, seven times a day. It’s also about having fun with your friends and being socially responsible. It’s about being able to participate in something like this,” she said.

Many schools host a jog-a-thon each year, but Pellicci said the Falcon Dash does more than raise money for the school.

“It’s super important that kids understand that this is a community event,” Pellicci said. “It makes them feel like they are a part of their school community.”

The PSO is looking for additional donations and volunteers looking to help with next year’s dash. Donations can be made at Fowler Middle School.

For more information about the group and the Falcon Dash, visit the Fowler PSO Facebook page.

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